“We hold these truths to be self- evident that all men are created equal,” – Thomas Jefferson. After that all bets are off. Respecting this idea of our common nature it seems odd that as a nation, as a people of family, friends and neighbors the idea of finding a middle ground we can all live with is increasingly inaccessible. On one side, strident voices deride “evil” corporations and their undue influence with not a thought that these corporations are the investment and retirement mutual fund refuge of their family, friends and neighbors. Not them, us. On the other side, strident voices deride the welfare state and its abuses while forgetting that they too are our family, friends and neighbors. The common complaint is about “fairness.” Everyone is for “fairness” in some manifestation or other.
It would seem that right out of the gate, after “all men are created equal” we are immediately in an unruly scrum over what “fairness” looks like. One side finds the ideal of fairness to be everyone’s life looking the same. Various causes such as wages, housing and “internet access” are championed. The other side sees fairness in the opportunity to make one’s way in the world without undue encumbrances of taxation and regulation implemented by government. So the implementation of one side’s goals, that there be no disparities of appearance or results is in direct contrast with the other side’s goals, freedom to live life of one’s choosing with the least interference from government. This conflict results because governmental action through taxation and regulation is the chosen means to achieve the “no disparities” stated goal. Alas, there is no constitutional provision that life be fair.
What the founders bound for us is that the law be fair. If governmental action is the chosen “agent of change” to ease the suffering from these “disparities” then the law is no longer fair, doors of influence peddling and favoritism in government are flung wide open and pouring through come the hordes of lobbyists. Suddenly, “too much money in government” is added to the list of grievances. If the government got out of the “fairness” business all that money, lobbying and campaign finance, would be happily spent elsewhere. The role of government ends at “equal protection under the law,” and fairness falls under “pursuit of happiness.” Fairness is everyone’s job, it is the work of the individual to seek fairness for ourselves and our family, friends and neighbors. It coincides with our nature as the created beings Thomas Jefferson alluded to.
The biggest problem with the government as the vehicle of change is that it immediately makes our basic expression of humanity, “not my problem.” The familiar refrain, “I pay my taxes” insulates us from full participation in our own humanity as citizens, friends and neighbors. We defer our humanity to the government. We are free from care, an unfortunate false freedom purchased with our tax dollars. It is in this conflation of charity and government we find the most fatal flaw.
Far below the lofty aspects of preserving our very humanity lie much more tawdry results of the finger-in-every-pie government. Influence, seeking to make the law actually unfair, better for me than it is for you because I “have a seat at the table” is the current standard of governance. It is because the government has enmeshed itself in every aspect of life that we need lobbyists. Why shouldn’t citizens act to protect themselves from this meddlesome force through the seeking of favor? The chasing of the tail commences. Interested parties pay huge sums, hundreds of millions, collectively billions of dollars to get their guy or gal elected so they can influence the making of the law. If there were no such power to peddle, there would be no peddlers. Perhaps then we would see a return to brief public service and not “lifetime enrichment” candidates.
People choosing to help their neighbors, friends and family with a mindfulness of their own common human condition rather than coerced at the end of the governments gun, held by the IRS, is a completely different matrix. Oh, I know you may say, “Who would do that?” Which means, (if you said that) you would be of the attitude that you, your family, friends and neighbors must be forced to be mindful of their own common humanity. Is that what you are saying? You, your friends, family and neighbors must be forced to see themselves in another’s need and suffering. I don’t think that’s what Thomas Jefferson thought of “all men” and their endowment by their creator. I like to think that things like giving and helping freely support and embolden our humanity in a way that taxation and coercion do not. Can we not agree that supporting and emboldening our humanity in its inestimable wonder is a good thing?
There was a time when the dividing line in this nation was the debate over the humanity of slaves, this divide was settled in the most awful way, by force, in blood. We are again a nation divided pointing in rage at the other, our friends, family and neighbors, at stake is our humanity. After that, all bets are off.